Coordinator/Leader: Sue Gale
Reporter: David Laurie
Species List: David Laurie and Nick Edwards
A 7:00am start found eleven of us gathered in the Forestry Commission car park at Santon Downham in mild, overcast conditions with Song Thrush and Robin singing and a Green Woodpecker calling. We were in hope of seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers* and headed out downstream by the Little Ouse. It was running high from recent rain but the path, though turning muddy in places, was thankfully not flooded. We saw Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskin and two Mandarin Duck flying downstream before a band of rain set in, heavy at one time, which may have discouraged our main quarry from showing itself.
However, we did see Mistle Thrush and Nuthatch. Returning, we saw Fieldfares and Redwings in the trees on the Suffolk side and five Little Grebes on the river. Taking the loop through the railway underpass to the cleared area on the North side of the track a Woodlark flew over, singing in the rain (not really like Gene Kelly – by now it was only drizzle). Back at the car park at 9:30 we were joined by two others but rather than trying for the Woodpeckers again we decided to look for Hawfinch and Firecrest at Lynford Arboretum where daffodils and snowdrops were in flower, combining with the voices of Song and Mistle Thrushes to give a fine spring feeling to a brightening day. Taking the path south we saw Brambling, Nuthatch, Coal, Marsh and Long-tailed Tits plus Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the reedy pond at the foot of the hill a Little Grebe was calling and in the field between Zigzag Covert and Ash Carr were Highland cattle and a selection of finches, Mistle Thrushes and a Redwing. A search of the trees revealed four Hawfinch (including two males in full breeding plumage) which dropped to the ground to feed with Chaffinches and very green Greenfinches. When they took flight together you could really appreciate the greater size of the Hawfinch. Coming back, we saw a pair of Yellowhammers, the male resplendent in bright spring yellow, and though we found a Goldcrest in the trees we were unable to locate any Firecrest.
The day was clearing, blue sky was appearing, and a half a dozen of us decided to return to Santon Downham to see if the improving weather would lure the Lesser Spotted into an appearance. After a pit stop at Brown’s in Mundford to warm up over coffee we drove back and set out again. The sun was out, silvering the river, but a strong wind from the outer edge of storm Jorge gave the air a distinctly chilly feel. We added Marsh Tit and Mute Swan to our Swanton list but despite a trek up and down the path we saw little else: less, in fact, than in the rainy morning.
So the Lesser Spotted remained, on this occasion, the Completely Unspotted Woodpecker. Never mind, it was still an excellent day and a pleasure to be out and about after the recent wet and windy weather. Our thanks to Sue for organizing and leading a very enjoyable day, and to Nick for compiling the Santon bird list.
51 species: S at Santon Downham, L at Lynford Arboretum. Blackbird (SL), Brambling (L), Buzzard (L), Chaffinch (SL), Cormorant (L), Carrion Crow (SL), Collared Dove (S), Coot (S), Stock Dove (S), Mandarin Duck (S), Dunnock (L), Fieldfare (S), Goldcrest (L), Goldfinch (SL), Canada Goose (L), Egyptian Goose (S), Little Grebe (SL), Greenfinch (SL), Black-headed Gull (S), Common Gull (S), Lesser Black-backed Gull (S), Hawfinch (L), Jackdaw (SL), Jay (L), Kestrel (S), Woodlark (S), Magpie (SL), Mallard (SL), Moorhen (S), Nuthatch (SL), Pheasant (S), Redwing (SL), Robin (SL), Siskin (S), Sparrowhawk (S), Starling (L), Mute Swan (S), Mistle Thrush (SL), Song Thrush (SL), Blue Tit (SL), Coal Tit (L), Great Tit (SL), Long-tailed Tit (L), March Tit (SL), Grey Wagtail (S), Pied Wagtail (S), Great Spotted Woodpecker (SL), Green Woodpecker (S), Wood Pigeon (SL), Wren (SL), Yellowhammer (L)
* The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is in serious decline and is one of the species in the Red Sixty Seven book featured in the February Newsletter. Well worth the £19.99, with profits going to conservation work.